FLOOD defences will cause irreversible damage to the environment in the borough say Warrington Green Party.

They have spoken of their concern for proposals for a new phase of the Mersey flood defence scheme put forward by the Environment Agency.

Greens are worried the next stage of the scheme, focusing on the north bank of the river, will destroy habitats for endangered birds, remove trees unnecessarily and potentially even increase the risk of flooding in the future.

Leader Steph Davies said: “The defence works that are proposed could lead to the extermination of any of the remaining ‘red list’ species of endangered birds that are left in this area.

“Vital areas of riverside grass that are essential for a number of these species will be destroyed placing further pressure on species that are already under threat exactly because of this kind of habitat loss.

“We are also horrified that far more trees than are necessary are being taken out – once again vital for bird life – and being replaced with almost exclusively field maples. Trees such as Alder which sustain Goldfinch, Siskin and the red listed Lesser Redpoll will be totally lost.”

Phase two of the works focuses on reduce the risk of flooding to around 500 homes from Riverside Retail Park to Kingsway Bridge.

The Green Party also say new block paved areas at Riverside Close could result in major problems after heavy rain as water will be stopped from soaking away effectively.

It has also raised concerns over the removal of shrubs and vegetation from the riverbanks will offer children easier access to the water - creating a safety risk.

“We want an immediate halt and a rethink to these proposals,” Steph added. “The Environment Agency together with Warrington Borough Council are proposing serious damage to an immensely valuable wildlife corridor.

“At the very least we need a full on-site breeding bird or wintering bird survey so we know the actual impacts.”

The second phase out of three for flood defences from Latchford to Cinnamon Brow was approved by councillors last month.

Keith Roddy from the Environment Agency’s Flood & Coastal Risk Management Team said: “Warrington has a very real risk of flooding, and the new flood defences will reduce the risk of flooding to over 2,000 homes and businesses. One of our roles is to safeguard the natural environment, the other is to reduce the risk of flooding, so we had to balance the protection of local wildlife with the protection of local people.

“In the short term, we have had to remove some trees and vegetation to make way for the new flood defences, but we will replant more trees than we felled and reinstate areas of vegetation which, when mature, will provide the same kinds of habitats that already exist along the River Mersey.

“We have consulted widely about our plans and, where possible, amended them according to the issues raised by the local community. We spoke to Councillor Davies in November and, following that discussion, we changed our plans to retain some riverside vegetation, limit the amount to riverside trees that we would fell and coppice some trees rather than fell them so that they will grow back more quickly. We cannot delay the current phase of tree felling in Howley as it is timed to have a minimum impact on this year’s bird nesting season.

“We are making every effort to ensure that our construction works are sensitive to local wildlife. An ecologist reviews the site regularly and we are pleased to report that our sensitive approach has not disturbed  any protected species activity.

“The footpaths we are putting in place are inside the flood defences, so will not affect flood risk to local properties.

“We are very keen to hear the views of local people, so have arranged fortnightly surgeries at our site offices in Victoria Park – the next is scheduled for 1pm to 2.30pm on Friday. We are also hosting an exhibition stand at Golden Square shopping centre on March 15 and 16 where people can talk to us and see our plans. For further information visit our website or call me on 542782.”